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Tornado Outbreak Kills 45 in Southern US

Nathaniel Ramey, left, comforts Megan Hurst at her grandmother's house in Askewville, North Carolina., Sunday, April 17, 2011 after a tornado struck Saturday

The death toll from three days of unusually strong storms that tore across the southern United States has risen to at least 45.

Nearly half the deaths came in the state of North Carolina, where as many as 60 tornadoes were spotted Saturday. Governor Beverly Perdue has declared a state of emergency after what experts call the worst storm to hit the state in 20 years.

The powerful storm system hit the state of Oklahoma Thursday, and swept across the south into the eastern state of Virginia by late Saturday. More than 200 tornadoes were reported with the storm, which destroyed or severely damaged hundreds of houses.

Many survivors say they lost everything they owned.

A tornado also passed near a Virginia nuclear power plant, knocking down power lines. According to the company Dominion Virginia Power, the tornado did not hit the two nuclear units and electricity was maintained.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that President Barack Obama spoke with the governors of North Carolina and Alabama on Sunday to express his condolences. Carney also said that President Obama assured them that the federal government stands ready to assist in recovery efforts.